A LETTER FROM THE EDITORS ISO frames frames. When looking into the emptiness of James Huang’s stacked shapes, we are reminded of the value they add to what they surround. The act of framing endows significance. Similarly, making a photograph imparts new meaning on the once acknowledged and then revisited. As Julia Gage writes in “Looking In, Looking Back, Going There,” return is intrinsic to the photographic process. With each image, this cycle repeats.
The repetitive nature of ritual is instinctual but often left unacknowledged. Through photographs, ritual is momentarily brought to consciousness in both form and content. It is apparent in the wedding ceremony, the family portrait, and in cultural customs. Yet, rituals repeat themselves in every context, as cycles emerge in the seemingly ordinary. In every image, frames within frames appear; the ritual returns. Alison Lentz Perri Hofmann
Alison Lentz firstname.lastname@example.org
Jonno Rattman email@example.com
Shiori Ohira firstname.lastname@example.org
Editha Mesina email@example.com
Perri Hofmann firstname.lastname@example.org
James Huang email@example.com
WRITERS Sarah Anderson Maddy Boardman Gabriela Claymore Mark Davis Emily Dubovoy Julia Gage Sophia Harvey Elena Kendall Olivia Manno Andrew Nunes Margaux Swerdloff
SPECIAL THANKS Liz Andrews Bonnie Briant Irene Cho Yolanda Cuomo Sara Group Jennifer Kinney Jackson Krule Paul Mahon Michael Messina Aileen Mitchell Kristi Norgaard Lorie Novak Cole Saladino
Rosalind Solomon Haley Stark Emma Strugatz Deborah Willis Advanced Media Studio Bruce Silverstein Gallery Galerie Lelong New York University Photography & Imaging Tisch School of the Arts Tisch Undergraduate Student Council
Cover: James Huang, Untitled Inside Cover: Benjamin Langford, Tourists I Back Cover: Jackson Krule, Cannes, France
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Looking In, Looking Back, Going There F E AT U R E D A RT I S T
EMMA STRUGATZ RITES ANDY GOLDSWORTHY FREEZING NATURE
THAT TIME OF YEAR F E AT U R E D A RT I S T
KIERAN KESNER MESORAH POLITICAL TRANSPARENCY
PICTURE PERFECT F E AT U R E D A RT I S T
ISAAC LEE GAJEONG
THE GALLERY RITUAL
Looking In, Looking Back, Going There
Te x t b y J U L I A G A G E
There is a principle of ritual called mythic identification. It is a term coined by Joseph Campbell, an Eastern religions scholar, to describe the ritual act of becoming, whereby the fundamental distinction between I and Thou diminishes. Through mythic identification the human self merges, becomes one with some real or imagined other entity—be it a deity, a mythical hero, even an animal or plant. If you take enough time with Rosalind Solomon’s 2003 monograph, Chapalingas, you feel as if you were her. On a warm Friday afternoon in April the elevator doors open onto a sunny seventh floor loft in Greenwich Village. Solomon invites me into her home and New York City melts away. I am conveyed to other realms as I gaze into pictures of Peru, India, South Africa or Alabama. I gaze into 1984, 1976, or 1993. Look, it’s like magic and there is always more to see. Miami Beach, Florida in 1994 is not difficult to envision among the palm trees with the jaunty fluffy-haired dame in “Her Boyfriend and Her Son, Miami Beach, Florida, USA, 1994.” The air feels warm, the tone is loving and playful. The sight of them is familial and familiar in all of its idiosyncratic oddities—this beauty in black is ebullient in the company of her two dearest fellows. Her nearly cherubic son clutches his mother’s waist while feigning a threatening glare at her suitor. And her suitor is a vision in chains. The smile he wears reveling in her fondness is reproduced in the arc of the wallet chain 6
at his belt and in the glinting manacle that links his earlobe to his left nostril. “They were walking together,” Solomon tells me, “and I asked, may I take your picture? When I printed it, I saw the teardrop tattoo.” Indeed, closer inspection reveals the two tiny teardrops set just below the outside corner of his eye, staggered in line with the crest of his cheekbone. Officiated by American gang culture, this insignia indicates the man has committed two murders. This fatal truth feels so at odds with the sweet whimsy of strange love. Such an incongruity noticed only in retrospect results in a uniquely photographic experience—that of photographic return. Return is a function of photography and ritual is an act of return. To return requires a point of origin, thus ritual (much like any photograph) is inscribed with some original moment recalled and recollected in its various aspects through ritual performance. Printing a photograph is likewise a manifestation of return: an original moment frozen in a snapshot; the photographer returns to the scene in administering the chemical treatments that inscribe the image on paper. The resultant print perpetually reproduces that moment to infinity, inviting a world of viewers to engage with that singular instant of “Her Boyfriend and Her Son, Miami Beach, Florida, USA, 1994.” Chapalingas takes the voyeurism of photography one step further. It shows the way Solomon organizes her own memory.
Revealing her personal associations puts us behind her eyelids, among the categorizing mechanisms of her mind. We return to the places she’s been, we feel like we know her through the sights she remembers for us. Her past catches our present. It is not time travel, but we look and her life flashes before our eyes. Rosalind Solomon became an artist fairly late in life. She was born in 1930, the elder of two daughters in Highland Park, Illinois. In 1953, soon after graduating college, Rosalind married Jay Solomon, a businessman and civic leader in his hometown Chattanooga, Tennessee. They raised a son and a daughter. Her recollection of that time renders a portrait of an educated, upper-middle class family challenging the social codes and hierarchies of the American South through political activism. Then during a trip to Japan in 1968 Solomon discovered photography. She describes her practice as instructive, as representing a search for her own identity and for some universal condition of human experience. “I wanted to know how other people dealt with their life stories. It was instructive to me,” she says. “I found out that I had to engage the world.” By all means that is precisely what she did. Stepping out of the role of housewife, her practice became more regular; she set up a home darkroom in 1969 and began studying under Lisette Model in 1974 during intermittent visits to New York City. Since then, Solomon has traveled extensively documenting
Catalin Valentinâ€™s Lamb, Ancash, Peru, 1981
Her Boyfriend and Her Son, Miami Beach, Florida, USA, 1994
Mother, Daughter, and Maid, Johannesburg, South Africa, 1988
Foxesâ€™ Masquerade, New Orleans, Louisiana, USA, 1993-1994
her journey as it unfolds, spiraling ever inward, ever forward, glancing locales across the globe. Chapalingas is the product of her explorations far and wide. It is a monograph that compiles a meticulously selected series of photographs from Solomon’s practice. The selection documents an array of landscapes, reflects a vast bracket of time, and is collated with regard to neither. Rather, it is divided thematically into chapters with each title implicating the common thread underlying its sequence of photographs. Among these titles, “Food: Fast”, “Hunger, Plenty, Want”; “Wheels: Spokes, Tires, Treads, Brakes”; and “Holds: Grasps, Ties, Clutches, Grips, Bars”. As absurd as they are profoundly poetic, the categories draw attention to the sorts of connections one notices in the act of looking back at what you’ve got at the end of the day—what is perhaps the very hallmark of photography—the act of looking back. The project further illustrates these associative processes of the mind and memory. Chapalingas is named after a Mexican song Solomon remembers from her childhood days as a girl scout. “Chapalingas” was the girls’ mispronunciation of the Spanish word, Chiapanecas. A flamenco dancer later
informed her the song is about this type of dancer from the Chiapas state in Mexico, recognizable for their twirling skirts in robust floral patterns. Solomon says she was reminded of this Anglicization while eating Oaxacan grasshoppers called chapulines. These otherwise unrelated experiences are synthesized through the faculty of remembering, summoned from varying depths of her memory, of her past by a present stimulus now passed. Hers is not the work of a documentarian, but rather the pictorial musings of a thoughtful wanderer engaging the idea of retrospection through photography. The photographic process becomes a metaphor for hindsight. Solomon freezes moments for posterity, groups these moments according to the similarities she locates among them in retrospect. It shows memory as a mechanism for collapsing chronology, superimposing different pasts upon the present, as a ritual played out time and time again. The result is a nonlinear portrayal of memory that doubles back on itself, then forward, then back again. Rosalind Solomon pictures this in Chapalingas with the turn of each page. Sitting on the couch under ceiling high windows with sunlight streaming in, Solomon and I revisited the pictures in Chapalingas together. I wanted to know
about one photo in particular, so I asked. She recalled, “On my first day in Johannesburg, I set up my tripod to photograph a mother and daughter. The mother called to her maid, Come here and be in the picture. Then she said, Get down on the floor. I snapped.” “Mother, Daughter and Maid, Johannesburg, South Africa, 1988” is set in a very neatly kempt though kitschy 1980s living room. The domestic backdrop looks homey with a collection of family photos carefully arranged on the end table, the candles in the ceramic angel candelabras burnt about halfway down. Three subjects pose for the camera, each engaging the lens with direct eye contact. Mother and daughter are perched on an easy chair, grinning merrily and alike in blondness of tress, while the dark, lined countenance of the maid kneeling on the floor looks out with pleading eyes or in resignation. Those eyes are wide. They suck the light from the room, they catch mine, hold them there. I feel like I am the object they behold. This looks like one picture spliced into another, slavery superimposed upon a 1980s living room interior. I feel much too close for comfort. I am standing there, I am Rosalind Solomon, and I snap. •
© 1976 - 1994 Rosalind Solomon, www.rosalindsolomon.com, Courtesy of Bruce Silverstein Gallery, New York
Int e r v iew ed b y E m ily Dubovoy
ver the past year, Emma Strugatz has documented her teenage sister and her Brooklynbased circle of friends. This coming of age series embodies the complexities and uneasiness of growing up in New York City. These teenagers display a dwindling innocence. The photographs juxtapose their naivety and playfulness with moments displaying sexuality, drugs and mischief. Emma’s relationship as both sister and photographer was complicated by her presence. She began to re-evaluate her portrayal as role model, enabler, and friend. Her works are uniformed in soft color, suggesting an empathetic approach to characterizing her subjects. Her view is somewhat voyeuristic as she peers into an intimate world, remaining connected yet detached. Many of the images were taken in low light; their shadows and darkness suggest an uncertainty not commonly associated with scenes of youth. This personal journey exposes the vulnerabilities of both the subjects and the photographer.
What inspired you to begin this series?
What do you mean by uncomfortable?
I began to notice my sister really growing up. She was fourteen when I started shooting, and in recent years, she was in a difficult place. It seemed interesting and I wanted to get inside. I was also growing up. I am graduating college soon and I felt as though I would never be able to get into that age group again. So in a way we were both growing up and I wanted to capture it.
I had never been with her when she had been drinking and smoking and hanging out with her friends. I knew she did, and it wasn’t a big deal. She’s a teenager. I began walking this vague line. My judgment of when it was appropriate or inappropriate to photograph became blurred. When I was enabling something or being voyeuristic, I was still being really watchful and protective of her. For access to the project, I had to be enabling to a certain extent. If I went to her and said, ‘don’t drink,’ then she wouldn’t let me into those scenes, so it’s a fine line to walk. It’s an interesting balance.
Your relationship with your sister seems like it is one of the central FOCI of your work. Can you describe your relationship with her? We were definitely always close, and we’ve certainly gotten closer since I started the project. But I did have to grapple with acting as a watchful eye during the project while also enabling things that maybe shouldn’t have been happening. In a way I was too old to be there. I am six years older than my sister. I’m twenty-one, and she and her friends are all fourteen or fifteen. It was difficult and uncomfortable at times. There were points in the project when we had to talk. 16
You seemed to take on a “fly on the wall” approach in a lot of the scenes you photographed. Did you find it difficult to capture the scenarios without your presence altering what you were photographing? In some cases, did your subjects know you were there? I think they quickly saw the way I shoot and what I was looking for. They realized that I was trying to capture more candid moments. I didn’t want to pose them. But I did feel at
times that the camera being there provoked them to be more physical. There are a couple of scenes of my sister, her friend, and her friend’s boyfriend in bed. They were rough-housing and becoming more performative and aggressive as I photographed. While I was often acting as an enabler, there was one time I intervened. During the summer, there was news about a Park Slope rapist. We were out one night and someone from the bushes was shining a red laser pointer at our heads and it was really scary. I just made everyone leave. That’s the only instance I can think of when I altered the situation.
always happy when I would go shooting with them because he liked the idea that I was there to watch out for her. She’s my sister, and if something were to happen, I would be her sister before the photographer. But I did question that throughout though, when it was right. I think that because she was so close to me, it made me hypersensitive to thinking about when or when not to photograph and when or when not to step in.
How did you deal with photographing someone so close to you and seeing this other side of your sister that you didn’t know before?
When my sister was little and we were kids, I used to be pretty mean to her just the way kids are. You know, I’d like beat her up and stuff. When she got older, I regretted it because I would see these cute pictures of her and I wished I had appreciated my cute little baby sister more. I would always tell her, ‘oh I wish you were little again.’ ‘You were so cute.’ But then one night, I had this bad dream that she was little again. Then I realized she wouldn’t grow up the way she had because I was being so nice to her now. She wouldn’t grow up to be the same 13 year old girl. I would never see that girl again. (Laughs) I know this is dumb, but this dream was like a revelation, or
It was a complicated family dynamic. Throughout the project, even up until the opening of my senior thesis show, my sister didn’t want my parents to see the photos. It’s very personal to me. Even though I wanted to capture scenes that allude to a more dangerous side, she’s my sister and I have a lot invested in her. Obviously, I just want the best for her. It gave me a good perspective because I was invested in the subject. My dad was
You included a note to your sister as an introduction to your work, can you explain the inclusion of text?
it just made me stop wishing she was little again. When she graduated middle school, I wrote her this note that said, ‘I wish you were little again, but actually, I don’t because then you wouldn’t grow up to be who you are now. And I like who you are now and I like who you’re becoming.’ As I was looking at your photos, scenes from certain coming of age films such as Sixteen Candles or Kids were popping into my mind. Did you intend for your photos to take on this cinematic feeling?
Do you think that we grow up too quickly? Maybe. I think city kids start experimenting with drugs and sexuality more quickly than others. But I suppose all kids want to grow up and be a few years older than they are. It’s funny because when we’re past the age of wanting to be older, we wish we savored our youth more. Maybe what we’re really nostalgic for is that itching feeling to grow. •
I didn’t want to portray them as a cliché, even though it is relatable [to those movies]. I definitely did not want to do a photojournalistic project. So, I guess I did want to capture more cinematic pictures. I was looking for moments that could stand alone rather than be in a photo essay of “youth in Park Slope.”
ANDY GOLDSWORTHY FREEZING NATURE Text by MARK DAVIS
Andy Goldsworthy Storm King Wall, 1997-98 Fieldstone, approx. 5’ x 2,278’ 6” (overall) ©Andy Goldsworthy. Courtesy of the artist and Galerie Lelong, New York. ©Storm King Art Center, Mountainville, New York. Photograph by Jerry L. Thompson
From rock-coated beaches to tree-filled forests, Andy Goldsworthy creates organic sculptures using materials innate to the landscape. He uses photography to preserve his work as it is continuously transformed by natural forces. Whether the change be immediate or gradual, the element of time is intrinsic to his artistic process. Through freezing time, photography extends Goldsworthy’s ability to archive and analyze his ever-changing work which inevitably puts it into a new context. Photographs remove him from the physical work, and allow him to look objectively at his creations and find repetition in his form and style. In Thomas Riedelsheimer’s documentary, Rivers and Tides, Goldsworthy explains: “Photography is a way of putting distance between myself and the work, which sometimes helps me to see more clearly what it is that I have made.” Because of his fascination with the change and flow of nature, a majority of his work mimics the rivers’ form. “Storm King Wall,” one of Goldsworthy’s most famous pieces, stretches nearly a mile through a park in Mountainville, New York. Without altering the natural landscape, the curvature of the wall weaves between trees and leads to a river. The wall consists of large flat stones; at its tallest it reaches five feet high. It does not divide, but rather meanders from pasture to forest to water symbolically connecting
the topographically polar landscapes. Exemplified by its winding form, the structure represents the invisible thread of connection inherent in nature. At one end of the wall, the stones recede to the bottom of the river. It is a paradoxical combination, as the river embodies fluidity and change, while the stone is an emblem of solidity and permanence. The only elements affecting the form of the stone are water and time. Once enough time has passed, this section of the wall will erode and cease to be the unyielding form that it once was. By photographing “Storm King Wall”, Goldsworthy uses time to capture itself: holding the continuously changing subject in place to be viewed in a firm state. An immediate gap forms between the image and site of the artwork. The original meaning of the work still exists in its previous context, but the photograph is a new representation and a lasting form. Two different understandings emerge from the original and photographic states. Goldsworthy’s sculpture cannot be experienced in a photograph as it would in its original location. Although the photograph is more accessible, the viewer is removed from the site-specific experience. The viewer cannot feel the texture of the stones, walk the length of the wall, or immerse themselves in the atmospheric conditions. The image
becomes completely individual to the original artwork. For Goldsworthy’s art, context and time have an equal impact on the perception of the work. Goldsworthy’s fascination with photo– graphy highlights the desire to make the impermanent permanent. It is a way to physically render memory—another aspect of life that is subject to time’s unbiased effects. Through images, it becomes possible to objectively observe the progression of time in fragmentary moments. An image can make permanent what was once lost in the natural undulation of time. Goldsworthy’s sculptures may rise but will eventually fall. Photography freezes the flow of nature: it captures and preserves a facet of a constant transformation that we are and always will be subjected to. •
Photographers deal in things which are continually vanishing and when they have vanished there is no contrivance on earth which can make them come back again.
THAT TIME OF YEAR Text by Olivia Manno
My family has never once sent a holiday card. When I was a kid, I remember how other families’ embellished envelopes would fill the mailbox right before Christmas. I loved to read the monotonous text wishing us “good health” and “peace, love, and happiness.” I always loved the photographs attached to these messages. They displayed coordinated sweater vests, festive backgrounds, and uncomfortable smiles. When the cards arrive every year, those with photos are proudly tacked along the doorframe of our living room, while those without are almost immediately thrown away. These couples, their children, and their pets, would live with us for about three weeks. They would smile as we unpacked stockings on Christmas Eve, as wrapping paper was shredded, and as we counted down to the new year. However, their physical selves were simultaneously celebrating in their own homes. I have not met the majority of the families whose cards we received, yet their faces are present in my home each year. A strange relationship forms between families and their card recipients. I watch as my father’s college friends’ children are born, as they become one, two, and suddenly ten years old. I hear a story about a husband’s affair with his secretary, and I look at their card to see the family sitting on a beach dressed in white. The husband drapes his arm over his wife, their two daughters in either lap. They appear to be happy. As long as everyone’s smiling, then the picture is a keeper. Every year, families put on the red cable-knit cardigans, parents fight about where to pose—on the rock in front of the
house? On the bench in the garden? Next to the tinsel-lined tree? Yelling ensues, and the father storms out of the room to calm down. Twenty minutes later, the picture has been uploaded onto the computer, placed on the card template, and ordered. The smiles are convincing and the backdrop is lovely. Their status has been secured for another year. It is a chance to play dress-up for an ephemeral moment; a moment that is then documented, archived, and distributed. There is an obvious visual disparity between appearance and reality. Even the simplest aesthetic choices can expose the construction of social façades. Such as clothing-coordinated photographs taken on beaches or European vacations months before they were sent. It is an entirely consuming process that only confirms the end of the genuine nature of this practice. It has been replaced by this unspoken competition to project the ideal family portrait, what everyone else should aspire to. The cards are displayed like art in the foyers of homes, signaling to visitors their social standing. The paper versions of these people act almost as safety nets, a silent, two-dimensional social network that maintains one’s status during the busy time of holiday lunches, dinners, and parties. The sentimental value of the holiday card has disappeared almost as fast as its superficial value has replaced it. This practice is almost a holiday in itself, an opportunity for families to direct, perfect, and solidify (if only for one day) the vision they struggle to maintain the other 364 days of the year. •
Jenny Kljucaric, South Side, 2011
KIERAN KESNER MESORAH:
Generation to Generation
I n t e r v i e w e d b y Madd y B o ard m a n
hotographer Kieran Kesner approaches his role as a preservationist, witnessing and documenting the intimacy of Orthodox Jewish weddings. Kesnerâ€™s presence goes unnoticed, allowing viewers to see candid actions in an insular community. The images are abound with energy in both content and formal qualities. Men wrap their arms around each other while dancing, three young girls stare in awe, their diagonal gazes casting a spotlight on the bride. Yet they are incredibly introspective, revealing the close ties within the community as well as their relationships with long-standing tradition.
Although you were originally commissioned for the work, do you feel it has expanded into a personal project? I feel there should never be a distinction between my personal art and the work Iâ€™m hired for. You should be hired because of your unique perspectives displayed in your personal work, not in spite of it. Why create art in one way and then assume that when hired, you need to work differently? But yes, the project has expanded. My understanding and appreciation of Orthodox Judaism has grown along with my ability to capture their culture. Why does the Jewish community interest you? I am intrigued by many different types of people, cultures and communities, especially those that differ from the mainstream. Orthodox Jews, as a whole, are by far the most incredible people I have ever met. They carry thousands of years of tradition, overcoming the most cruel persecution, preserving for the next generation their practice and connection with G-d. How would you describe your relationship, if any, with your subjects? I feel the best photographs, and those I admire most, come from gaining the trust of your subject. The relationship I have with my subjects is an interesting one. I feel honored not only
to share in their simchas/celebrations but also to bear witness to history. For thousands of years, the Jewish people have been on a journey; I feel privileged to be able to document this particular chapter. Does documenting an especially significant event push you to see differently? I always look at the world through an observerâ€™s lens, whether I have a camera with me or not. As a photographer, you have an obligation not only to faithfully portray moments, but also to share unique and individual perspectives. By holding a camera, I am reminded of my obligation not only to document what is before me, but to do so in such a way that the viewer feels that they were there, alongside my lens. Your photographs offer insight into a culture that is relatively reclusive from the rest of society. Do you think the work will offer a better understanding of Orthodox Judaism? From the very beginning, my goal was to open up a window of understanding, and hopefully increase connections between the world I live in and the world of Orthodox Jews. I too have felt removed from these communities and had my own internal prejudices based on fleeting interactions with those I might pass on the street. However, I befriended some Orthodox
Jews and we became very close. I was soon visiting Orthodox communities, often without my camera, and was always welcomed with open arms. I have learned just how special and different this culture is from the secular world. Would you consider yourself religious? Do you feel connected to these photographs or do you feel more like an observer? I tend to consider myself quite religious, but perhaps more spiritual than fully observant. Unlike the subjects I photograph, distinguished by their payos (side-locks of hair), tzitzis (fringes or tassels often by their side), and a variety of ornate hats/ clothing, I don’t outwardly express my religion. However, when I immerse myself in Orthodox Jewish culture, it is as if all barriers are removed. We are all the same; we are people who share in the same joy, sadness, and fear. I suppose it all depends on how one considers spiritual connection in relation to religious observance.
my history and shapes how I see the world, but I don’t think it inherently defines the relationship I have with my subjects. Whether it is my upbringing or exposure to the world around me, I always seek to offer trust, sincerity, interest and a common ground between myself and my subjects. How do you feel looking back on the images now? Are they a work in progress? They are still a work in progress. I am often pleased with the end result of my images though. Perhaps, it’s because I start with an image in my head and try to capture that, rather than strictly seeing through my viewfinder. Whether I achieve what I had hoped for or not, I never stop pushing myself to grow and develop artistically. With each click of the shutter, I seek to improve on the last image I made. Life as a photographer is a journey, it allows for you to not only live in the moment, but also capture a moment in time. •
Do you feel your religious beliefs impact your role as a photographer? Yes, but not so much because I’m Jewish. It has more to do with a spiritual or soul connection that creates the bonds of each relationship. In my case, yes, I am Jewish and that certainly makes bridging the differences easier. Judaism is
POLITICAL TRANSPARENCY Text by Sophia Harvey
Abraham Lincoln first used photography politically in the mid 1800s to cultivate a well-liked public image. In the most famous portrait by Mathew Brady, photographic clues are used to signal his intellect and ability to lead. In the image, Lincoln appears beside a column representing stability; his hand rests upon a stack of books. Through widespread distribution of the portraits, Lincoln ingrained his likeness in the public’s mind. The president famously joked that if it were not for Brady’s portraits, he would not have been re-elected. His reputation was so powerful that it still remains wellknown. He has greatly contributed to the photographic language we understand in politics today. Most Americans may not be able to say much about his policies, but nearly everyone can accurately describe the face and character of “Honest Abe.” During the 1860’s, Brady and other photographers began to photograph the Civil War. Brady had grown bored of portraiture and longed to document the turmoil of the war. Once made public, these photographs caused an enormous stir. This was the first time the horrors of war were seen at home. While Lincoln’s images helped shape contemporary campaigning methods, Brady’s Civil War photographs initiated a form of transparency between the government and the public. On a fundamental level, the goal of both political and war imagery is to inform the public of the nation’s activities both in Washington and internationally. In theory, they are equal tools for communicating the unseen. However, war documentation has
a purer aim, while campaign and political photography almost always have an agenda. In fact, the two genres often work in opposition to each other; when images of the battlefield are not convenient to the government’s image, they are frequently swept under the proverbial rug. Today, politicians fiercely control portraits taken of them, meticulously monitor public appearances, and use unflattering images to debase opponents’ reputations. Hillary Clinton does not allow photography below the waist. Obama does not allow paparazzi to see him smoking. All politicians have a public relations team to calculate the most crowd friendly shade of blue for their suits, the most acceptable degree of scuff for their shoes (too much is sloppy, too little is elitist), and exactly how wide their smile should be at any moment. The language of these carefully composed images is meant to create and draw upon associations appealing to American values. Each photograph is treated as another opportunity to construct the “Honest Abe” persona.
Although politicians’ personas are highly fabricated, more candid war imagery equally affects our perception of government. However, it is rare that the public is shocked by a group of images like those of the Civil War. Yet, the photographs that surfaced from Abu Ghraib managed to break through the fog of media-induced desensitization and cause deep unrest. American soldiers’ cell-phone images depicted torture and humiliation of Iraqi prisoners. The inclusion of both abuser and abused in the raw and casual format of cell-phone snapshots differentiated the pictures from those typically shown on nightly news. As they disseminated throughout the nation they became quickly associated with the American occupation in Iraq. Government and media quelled the uproar as efficiently as possible through feigned horror and eventual apology, although no acceptance of blame was taken. It is reputation that is held at the forefront of American politics. Ultimately, it is up to the viewers, to analyze the photographs
presented. Image must be separated from context, the candidate from his head-shot, the incident from its framing. With this much media control, has photography brought about more transparency, or less? Documentation by amateurs and professionals alike has no doubt raised awareness of the horrors of war and oppression, but it is countered so masterfully through controlled media that there is an immense dilution of message. The interplay between politicians and their visual presentation is crucial to remember in the time leading up to an election. We must remember that the iconography presented by politicians markets a lifestyle, one that matches ideals. The photographs tell nothing of policy, but rather play on an emotional level of understanding. Unfortunately, this is unreliable. Far more than we are electing a family man or a symbol of change, we are electing a policymaker. •
Pete Souza, Official White House Photo, 2011 Left: Mathew B. Brady, Library of Congress, LC-USZ62-5803
PICTURE PERFECT Text by Sarah Anderson
I stood stiffly on the edge of the train tracks, a portable flash extended in the air above me aimed at the posed couple. My boss, crouched with her digital camera, called out words of encouragement as the couple tried to appear as in love as visibly possible. We began to feel a subtle vibration that violently shook the metal beneath our feet. We all screamed as a train came flying around the bend behind the couple. We dove blindly off the tracks. Our bodies rolled through the dirt just as the train roared by. As we lay there, breathing heavily, the bride gasped, “Well...I hope you got the shot.” Evidently, creating the perfect image is the top priority. To cater to this desire, the wedding photography industry has developed into more than a few staged snapshots. Due to the constraints of large view cameras first used for wedding photography in the 1800s, images were made almost exclusively in studio. With the advent of the portable film camera, photographers began shooting at ceremonies and receptions. In the
1970’s, wedding photographers began taking a more photojournalistic approach, capturing the wedding as it unfolded. Now photography, aided by the digital era, has become a wedding ritual in itself– an essential part of the preparations for and execution of the day. The industry has shifted to offer couples a variety of ways to memorialize every moment of the event. In addition to engagement shoots that glorify the romanticism of a relationship, photographers have come up with new add-ons to increasingly expensive package deals. Studios offer boudoir sessions to brides looking to surprise their men with racy photos pre-wedding night. Photo booth stations have become an instant hit at receptions. Brides are eagerly signing up for “trash the dress” shoots. Postwedding, they wear their gown one final time and enter a scenario completely unfit for their attire. Brides will romp around in the mud or dive into the ocean, destroying their dresses to create photographically opportune moments.
Above: Regan & Landon, 620 Loft & Garden, 2010 Left: Regan & Landon, Times Square, 2010
Wedding photographers are going to great lengths to accommodate couples eager to display their love to family members and Facebook friends. The rise of social media has also influenced the wedding ritual; photographing an event is emphasized more than the physical experience. We constantly anticipate the presence of a camera and have grown accustomed to posing and creating idealized situations. The compulsion to photograph can be easily observed as many guests experience the day through the screen of an iPhone or digital camera. The couple, with so many lenses on them at a given moment, feel the constant need to be picturesque. Hours are carved out exclusively for picture taking. Couples often end up more focused on the photograph than the happiness of the moment. The business thrives on being able to create and preserve an ideal. Perhaps the wedding itself just isn’t enough anymore. •
ISAAC LEE GA J E O NG
I n t e r v i e w e d b y E le n a K e n dall
saac Lee, in his latest photographic project, “Gajeong” or “Home” in Korean, confronts his two cultural identities. His colorful and transmundane self-portraits stand out amidst the dark shadows that surround him. The large scale prints are mounted in homemade light boxes transforming the photographs into glowing theater platforms, and inviting viewers to watch the silent performance unraveling before their eyes. The images depict the struggle of a particular individual to assert his own identity as a Korean-American. However, Lee brings to light a very contemporary issue: the inner-conflicts experienced by an everexpanding multicultural society as a whole.
WHAT WAS THE INSPIRATION FOR THIS SERIES? Very early on, I struggled with identity problems. I represent the “1.5” generation. Although my parents moved to America when they were very young, they raised me in Korean culture. However, we lived in a predominantly white, mostly ItalianAmerican neighborhood which was completely different. I found that those two cultures clashed within me: I had trouble knowing who I was because what I learned at home contradicted what I saw at school. CAN YOU GIVE ME AN EXAMPLE? It was obvious that I was much different from my peers, physically and culturally. My classmates were all 5th, 6th, and 7th generation Americans, and many of the customs I practiced were not familiar to them. For example, the food I used to bring to school when I was younger seemed strange to my classmates. They were not used to eating rice, seaweed and kimchi. They would react against it and say it was repulsive. Everything about growing up in that kind of situation was incredibly confusing– I did not know who I was. For a while I even tried to be as American as possible. I tried to fit in. My cultural identity has always been something that constantly crosses my mind. What is my identity within the larger spectrum? What do you mean by LARGER SPECTRUM? There is a wide range of Korean Americans and they do not fit into one single category. I took a portraiture class with Editha Mesina and started a project where I was taking pictures of Korean-Americans in their living spaces. I wanted to show the different ways in which the two cultures overlapped yet most often remained disconnected. HOW DID YOU THEN PROCEED EXPLORING YOUR IDENTITY? I wanted to undertake a project that would continue this theme that I had been working on for the past couple of years. I had
finally started accepting who I am. I am a Korean American. I can’t cut out my culture because it doesn’t fit with my lifestyle. I started going through old pictures and re-watching old Korean soap operas and dramas. I began to notice small things that had not seemed too prominent in the past. YOU SUDDENLY SAW THEM WITH A NEW PERSPECTIVE. Yes, like the graveyard image. Actually, that graveyard is just one single plat and is surrounded by a movie theater parking lot. I had always found it strange and interesting. When I was young, my friends and I used to hang out there and drink. No one seemed to care. But then I started thinking about Korean burial rituals. When I traveled to Korea, my family and I would always stop at my grandfather’s grave and they would perform many different rituals. They would clean the plat and pour their favorite drink on the grave. I was so baffled. When I had seen the grave near the parking lot, I had always associated it with my youthful recklessness. Now, all I could envision was a poor dead woman surrounded by noise and disrespect instead of laying in peace like she deserved. WAS THE WOMAN KOREAN? No, but I wanted to show her respect drawing from my Korean heritage. In the photograph, I am pouring my own favorite drink. It was my way of honoring this woman the same way my family honors my ancestors when we go to Korea. TO WHAT EXTENT DOES THE PERFORMATIVE ASPECT OF YOUR WORK PLAY INTO ASSERTING YOUR SINGULAR IDENTITY? I wanted to recreate scenes of daily life using lighting and staging techniques, which would show the way I felt internally. It was my way of transforming abstract concepts and thoughts into concrete images. These self-portraits in traditional outfits take place in specific situations where I feel a lot of dissonance between the two cultures. I would be doing simple tasks and one part of me believed it was the right way to proceed, while another part of me thought it was wrong.
WHAT IS YOUR PROCESS? I AM PARTICULARLY INTRIGUED ABOUT THE STAGING OF THE PHOTOGRAPH WITH THE FAN. I am very meticulous when I prepare my photographs. The fan image was shot in a basement at Rutgers University. I studied and rehearsed a traditional Korean fan dance. I asked a couple of my friends to come so I could include them in the background. Everything was ready, and I started shooting and dancing in the basement. Suddenly, there were tons of people that showed up out of nowhere and the staged party became an actual party. So there I was, performing the Korean routine I had practiced for so long, in the middle of a crowd, oblivious to what was going on. (Laughs) The Korean dancer surrounded by American dancers. I think it was a particularly happy accident because it really showed the disparity between the two cultures.
THE ELEGANCE OF YOUR POSES AND THE PINK PALETTE COULD STRIKE THE VIEWER AS AN ATTEMPT TO EXPLORE A FEMININE SIDE OF YOUR PERSONALITY. WAS THAT YOUR INTENTION? No, not at all. Actually a lot of people have asked me if the series was also about sexual identity. In fact, there are as many feminine roles as there are masculine in the work. I wanted to encompass the culture as a whole. In Korea, the colors of red and pink are associated with wealth and opulence. The culture is based on respect: respect for your elders, for your family, and so on. There is a sense of submission based on respect that I made present while performing for my photographs, but that shouldn’t be mistaken with taking on a feminine role. This is a clear example of the divide between Western and Eastern culture. •
G ALLERY R ituals are rich i n ph o t o graphic p o te n tial a n d ever y da y life is rife with ritual .
Jennifer Kinney, Trapper Creek, Alaska
Jolie Maya-Altshuler, Gainesville
Mallika Vora, Bed-Stuy
Perri Hofmann, from the series In Wax
Waverly Mandel, Caspian in His Room
Jonno Rattman, Holidays
Jonno Rattman, Burlesque at Valentine’s Soirée Right: Rin Johnson, A on Paisley
Chloe Pang, Untitled Right: Jennifer Kinney, Trapper Creek, Alaska
Jake Lindeman, Parking Lot Indians
Jonno Rattman, Girl with a Flag Previous Left: James Huang, Untitled Previous Right: Cameron Cuming, Gallery Opening
Jolie Maya-Altshuler, Untitled Left: Alex Arbuckle, Via Crucis, Little Italy Previous: Cameron Cuming, Newspaper in Rain
Chloe Pang, Untitled
Soleil Garneau, Madrid, Spain Right: James Huang, Untitled
James Huang, Untitled
Jonah Rosenberg, Untitled
Margay Kaplan, Untitled
Kristina E. Knipe, Untitled
Margay Kaplan, Untitled
Alison Lentz, Nanaâ€™s
Above: Dustin Left: Norton Next: Coney Island
Featuring photographs by Rosalind Solomon, Kieran Kesner, Emma Strugatz, and Isaac Lee